Saturday, 16 February 2013



Good early hours of the morning, Synapse Circuit Readers... As you can tell, I am having a bout of insomnia! I think it was brought on by one of my friends who told me earlier on that she’s run up a massive bill on her phone! Gadzooks!

I am also thinking that somebody somewhere in the meat industry was cut out of a deal and this person has now chosen to declare that the horses have already bolted their way into the UK food supplies! Neigh!

Yes, I am getting closer to releasing the new magazine format! You betcha! Ok, on with this blog!

This blog is aimed squarely at the non-technical individual who has managed to acquire the gear: Broadband Internet; WiFi hub and smartphone. If you know the password for your broadband WiFi then the chances are this is not for you!

Sometimes I take it for granted that there are individuals out there who have the gear but aren’t using it to its full potential. Two good friends of mine have told me of their recent problems with high mobile phone bills! I was particularly shocked by one of them that I will refer to as ‘Case 1’.


Woman in her early 40s who has an aged computer (and is in dire need of a new one); has Sky broadband and television service and her mobile of choice is the Samsung Galaxy SIII mini, “It fits into my hands better than my fiancĂ©’s SIII...”

I have known Case 1 for a good while now; we became friends after I helped her solve her problems with Microsoft Office. Case 1 loves the idea of technology but is a little unsure and not confident with using her tech.

I noticed that she hadn’t called me in a good while so I called her to ask if she was alright. It turned out that she had gone way over her limit and accrued a massive bill! Most of that bill was generated by Internet usage. So, I asked her, “When you’re at home don’t you use your WiFi?” “What’s WiFi?” she replied... I was shocked! After all that I had taught her she no idea what WiFi was. Never mind... I had to chuckle at the memory of a former boss where I worked as an IT teacher when I revealed that I didn’t know what WiFi was. Lol! His blank and pompous stare of disdain made me want to thump him – but, hey, I am not a violent guy!

I had to get Case 1 to look at her WiFi hub, make a note of the password (usually on the hub) and to turn on her WiFi on the SIII mini. Once she connected her SIII mini to her WiFi she was able to surf the web and make calls through Skype and Viber.

If this sounds like you I would advise you to start using your WiFi whenever you are at home and take advantage of apps that will allow you free texting and calls.

Free messaging apps:

Skype – The reception can be very good via WiFi.
LINE is very good for free calls and texting.

Viber is also good, but there have been some issues regarding security. I must look further into it.

Tango and OoVoo are good for video calling.


Single mother of two in her 40s bought herself a Samsung Galaxy Ace after being talked at by a representative at Phones 4U! Let me make the short story even shorter... Case 2 wanted a good handset and considered a contract. She wanted to spend £15 each month and the representative tried to talk her into a higher contract and proceeded to talk her out of the shop! So, she went elsewhere and purchased the Galaxy Ace outright.

I tried my best to dissuade her from getting the Galaxy Ace because...

a) I just didn’t like it. The battery on it is horrendous and...
b) The storage capacity is abysmal!

Sadly, she didn’t listen and is now suffering from the false economy that is the “budget” Android handset! Some budget Android handsets are good, but what I have noticed is that a majority of them do not have adequate storage! These handsets appeal to those who just mainly want to make and receive calls. But if you are looking for more of the smartphone experience then you will need to up your PAYG game!

Here’s a tip: Opt for a budget handset with anything from 2 GB or 4 GB of internal storage. Internal storage is where your apps are going to end up on. Bear in mind that if you have 2 GB you will most likely end up having around 1 GB of it because the remainder of that space will be taken up by the software that comes with the handset! I wish that the correct amount of storage available would be clear to consumers off the bat! I also wish that these manufacturers would just put on what’s essential on these budget things: Run Android without a skin – run it pure; just have the essential apps (the usual Google suspects that includes YouTube, Google Now, Google+ and so on – Gmail comes as default when you register an account to download apps from the Play store). Some of these budget handsets comes with a whole load of bloatware – unwanted software!

What I also hate is that a majority of store assistants do not know anything about the handsets they are selling! Also they are so greedy for sale that they do not know how to deliver information to non-technical folk. As you may have experienced, they talk at and over you. They are practising the non-too-subtle art of psychological domination so that you feel obligated to take up their offer. I say, give the customer what he or she wants!

In any event Case 2 could have got a better handset on a contract that is suited to her budget.

Here’s some more tips:

The advantage of buying a reasonably priced handset outright is that you can then opt for a SIM only monthly contract that you can quit at a month’s notice.

I don’t advise spending over £20 on a 24 month contract on a handset unless it has really good spec on it. What’s good spec? Ok, I will tell you!

The speed of the processor (CPU) is important. Ideally you would want a dual-core with a speed of 1.2 up to 2 GHz.
RAM: 1 GB to 2 GB is good. Anything less than that you should be looking at around £10 to £15 per month.

Internal storage: You’re looking at 4 GB if you are spending £10 per month. Ideally you should have at least 8 GB if you’re spending above £10!

The camera may be of importance to you too! On most budget handsets you won’t find a front facing camera to make video calls. If you want to make video calls you have to take into account that you are looking at around £15 a month rental.

Continuing with the camera... If you love taking pictures and video you have to look at the megapixels and video resolution. Resolutions these days are high definition resolutions:

Full HD can be comparable to a standalone camcorder or pocket camcorder and that is 1920 x 1080p and the resolution down is 1280 x 720p. I don’t know of any budget handset that does HD video; you might get an acceptable 640 x 480 standard that is the equivalent to DVD quality. It is also known as VGA video (Video Graphics Array).

I know that the Galaxy SIII mini does 1280 x 720p HD video and it can be rented for around £15 monthly. Oh, it does have a front facing camera for video calls.

For taking pictures it’s good to have at least 5MP; you’d think that more megapixels would make for better pictures, but like it is with dedicated cameras, it’s about the lens. If the lens is cheap then the quality of the photos / video will reflect that. Always ask for a trial period or to take photos in the store. Be aware that you may not be viewing the quality correctly.

Again, having used the Galaxy SIII mini I can say that the quality of the camera is pleasing.

About rental... The trouble with rental is that the networks want to tie you into a 2 year contract. If you have any ideas about selling the handset on then you really need to pick a good handset that will retain its value! I picked the HTC Desire and it is not worth much today – especially as it has a limited storage capacity! A lot can happen in 6 months let alone 2 whole years! So, if you can afford to get a mid-range handset outright then you’d be better off financially! I would encourage you to go for the Google Nexus 4 when you buy it directly from Google Play Store!

Before buying a handset outright I would go online and check the manufacturer sites for exact spec details. You can pick up bargains online too! You can find good handset on eBay and Amazon. You can also find reasonably priced handsets in computer exchange stores.

Usage: Another thing to bear in mind is that when you rent in the region of £10 - £20 per month you’re not getting many minutes, text or Internet usage. This is why buying a decent handset outright and getting a SIM only deal can work out so much better economically. I believe the network 3 does a good SIM only deal that features all you can eat data (unlimited data) for £15 a month! Check out these options!

That’s it in a nutshell! Again, if you want to buy from physical retail outlets do your homework first! Don’t go in there with little or no idea as that makes you an easy target! These sales assistants smell fear! Lol!

Premium handsets are worth it if you are going to make use of all it has to offer! Honestly, you – in most cases – may not find it necessary to have a separate digital camera / camcorder or even a computer! Today's smartphone does it all! You get a superb handset for rentals of £28 upwards per month!

Many people are afraid to download apps! If that’s you, do not be afraid to ask someone. Just go to a store and make these assistants work for their money! Lol! Or ask a friend!

I tell ya... The amount of months it took me to cajole a friend into downloading WhatsApp! I knew that she didn’t know how and didn’t want to say so out of feeling inadequate. We all have to start somewhere!

Download those apps; use WiFi when you’re at home; set a limit on your data usage! You can find out how to set your data limits by accessing the settings on your handset! See if you can do that! Explore your handset! Some networks won’t allow you to go over your limit!

Don’t be afraid to ask and explore!

Thank you for reading!

In the meantime please check out the Interactive PDF right here:
Synapse Circuit Dot Com!

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